We Have More Power Than We Think
We are far from powerless in Corporate North America, especially in 2020.
We make choices every day that either align with what we what we want the world to look like or don't.
Instead of blaming and shaming (such wasted energy at a time when we are already inundated with information and exhausted), why don't we just make a few informed choices we probably had to make in the first place, without overthinking or overhyping it?
I've been shopping at Whole Foods every week. They sell our favorite brand of sustainable, oil-and-sugar-free vegan meat. No Evil Foods make obnoxious dietary restrictions and supporting independent businesses easier and tastier. Win. We usually pick up our protein, snacks, and some produce while we're there so technically Whole Foods has been taking a significant chunk of our barely-stable income each month.
But we've been noticing a lot of fails on the part of Whole Foods: a recent loaf of bread was moldy all the way through the day after purchase. They constantly rearrange the store in a way that makes it hard to find our staple foodstuffs. They won't let us use our own bags, even though researchers and lawmakers announced that reusable bags are COVID-19 safe back in June--they insist on doubled paper bags, and although one guy at one location suggested I bring mine back in to be recycled... a gal at another location chewed me out for bringing them in. All of these things might be small details in a consumer's experience, until I stopped to think about it.
Whole Foods is owned by Amazon, the richest company headed up by the richest man in the known universe. Whole Foods charges vastly inflated prices for products I can find elsewhere. And my customer service experience at Whole Foods changes depending on who I'm dealing with. How is any of this a thing? How are you part of the richest company on this Earth and you can't get your employees at neighboring locations on the same page, or lower your environmental impact through lawful reusable bag use, or sell unmolded bread? How are employees at Whole Foods not the happiest people alive, working for the most profitable company in 2020 at a time when so few other career options are proving valuable?
Whole Foods should be one of the best jobs in the world, but it clearly isn't.
Then I remembered that Amazon's products are the cheapest version of everything, and that Amazon makes its unholy profits by seizing smaller businesses and taking advantage of millions of overworked employees. This seems like less a coincidence and more of a company policy, that likely filters down through the rest of the Bezos branches, like Whole Foods, for instance (which wasn't exactly known for anything but making healthy choices bourgeois and inaccessible in the first place).
Long story short, this morning I took my ass to Trader Joe's, one block away from the Whole Foods where a lady shooed me from the store with her grumpy face. I have never once witnessed an unsmiling, unhelpful employee at a single TJ's location. They have everything I buy at Whole Foods, except the No Evil meat, which I promptly purchased online, direct from the brand. There was no line, though when the lines are long around midday, they hand out water bottles and put out funny food pun drawings in chalk art to keep it light. The started allowing reusable bags as soon as the law changed. Trader Joe's, though it boasts 42 locations in the US, is still a privately owned company. They keep their prices low and their customers/employees happy by maintaining great relationships with dependable suppliers, not whiny shareholders. They have killer music playlists and they turn it up--I always leave bopping and singing to some happy funk throwback. They seem to employ diverse and upbeat folks and I appreciate the wholesome jokes that fly between cashiers across the aisles. In the 10 years I've lived in America, I have never once not loved my Trader Joe's experience. Seems like a true win. I told my cashier today, in one of the middle aisles, after a great conversation about the virtue of naps, that I wasn't going to shop at Whole Foods anymore, and she congratulated me, genuinely.
This is just one simple choice under an umbrella of better choices.
I haven't ordered from Amazon in almost a year-- I just order things direct from suppliers.
I make my own face masks with oats and fresh avocado. No weird chemicals/they work great.
I reduce waste by composting, recycling, and repurposing things.
I buy small batch, guaranteed fair trade coffee. Coffee is such a special thing to not be paying its farmers and purveyors a good living wage. Same with tea.
We shop at Lowe's instead of Home Depot. Same supplies, but one of them supported both Trump campaigns. Easy choice.
I wear a lot of hand me downs. And people give me their stuff in a lovely little upcycle.
I use my library card more than I buy and ship books.
I'm slowly cancelling all my email subscriptions. I'm going for a minimalist inbox.
I turned off my social media notifications (this has truly affected my sanity for the better) and now I log on out of kinder intentions, not addictive habit.
Is everything perfect? Far from it. Every time I figure something out, I realize how much there still is to figure out. But the small changes that are easy-to-execute feel good and add up a lot over time, and they make a difference. Instead of giving into the fear and loathing of corporate billionaire agendas, just take yourself out of the equation by buying elsewhere.
Again, no blaming/shaming others. Letting go of judgment of those around you will set you free. Just incrementally better choices, every day.